More Muslims Entering Law School, Defending Muslim Civil Rights

July 9, 2006

Source: The Mercury News

On July 9, 2006 The Mercury News reported, "Minal Hasan was exploring careers -- teacher? journalist? -- when two planes sliced through the World Trade Center.

In the days and months that followed, friends and relatives exchanged tales of harassment, dubious arrests and assaults nationwide. Someone threw rocks at Hasan's car. Someone else spat at her.

The Fremont woman then followed an increasing number of American Muslims, rocked by the fallout of Sept. 11: She applied to law school.

The 'civil rights of our community are being encroached upon, and we don't even have enough lawyers in our community to help us. A lot of people in our community thought that,'' said Hasan, who graduated from Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in May. 'I thought that, too.''

Though firm numbers are elusive -- law firms and schools don't ask about an applicant's religion -- the number of Muslim lawyers and law students is growing. The National Association of Muslim Lawyers, which began in 1996 with 24 members, now has 500. Half of the 100 members of the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers, known as BAAML, are law students, a sign of the swelling ranks. And Muslim law student associations are sprouting from Berkeley to Yale.

Muslims' growing interest in law is also part of social evolution that occurs as children of immigrants explore professions beyond the medicine and engineering paths available to their parents. The increase is felt in myriad ways. Lawyers and law students are fanning out to teach Muslims about civil rights. A legal clinic at a Santa Clara mosque offers free community consultations, and there's talk of more opening across the nation... The profession's high regard -- and high pay -- in the United States has changed some immigrants' perceptions of lawyering. Some credit lawyers' rising profiles as they take on issues vital to the Muslim community: immigration and discrimination."